studying abroad good for your countryLast week, Michelle Obama gave a speech at an American university encouraging students to study abroad. Her speech during the Chinese president’s visit to the U.S. reinforced the American government’s plan to help 100,000 American students study in China to build the relationship between the two countries.

If you are not an American (or Chinese), why does this matter to you? The First Lady said this:

The fact is, with every friendship you make, and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world. That is so important. So when you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger.

Now read it again, inserting your country’s name instead of America.

When you study abroad, of course there are many benefits for you – you build language skills and get valuable experience that will help you in your career. You also build new relationships and learn about a new culture.

You also give a lot to others. A person who may only know about your country from a map or the news media will learn much more by knowing you. They will learn about the culture and the people behind the headlines. Maybe they will learn that they have something in common with you. Then your country will be more than a place on the map to that person – it will be their friend’s home.

Can you create world peace by studying abroad? Maybe that sounds too simple, but building relationships and understanding is a step toward peace.

What do you think? What would you like to teach Americans about your country? On the other hand, does meeting people from other countries change the way you think about their countries?